Reality Makes the Best Fantasy: St. Nick AND Krampus

Krampus: Don’t worry, St. Nick, I’ve got this. Kid: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!

You know what the holiday season needs? More spankings.


Meant to complement Saint Nicholas in his liturgical robes and bearing gifts for good children, Krampus appears as a wild man. Covered in hair, sporting horns and equipped with a barrel, chains and whips, he and other figures like Knecht Ruprecht and Belsnickel dole out punishments for poorly behaved children.  His long tongue is meant to be terrifying and instead of offering sweets and gifts for children, he punishes bad children by whipping them, putting them in his barrel and taking them away. Many traditions have a counterpart to St Nick, meant to keep children in check during the holidays, ensuring their good behaviour in exchange for gifts. The threat of coal or bundles of sticks sometimes isn’t enough to make sure Little Sophia eats all her vegetables and doesn’t punch the cat.

If you’re going to inject morality into the holidays, you can’t have light without dark. An end of the year reckoning means your actions and the actions of those around you will be taken into consideration and dealt with before the new year begins. Of course, not only children have to be sorted.  The good will be rewarded and the bad…

For GMs

  • Who is the good entity of the holiday and what do they exemplify? What do they look like? What types of clothes do they wear? What are they based on?
  • Who is the evil entity of the holiday and what do they exemplify? What do they look like? What are they based on?
  • Do the moral entities focus on children or adults? What kind of actions are they trying to encourage? How do they go about encouraging this?
  • How have the two figures changed over the generations? Is one favoured over the other? Are their holds stronger in different locations?
  • What items are associated with each figure? How are they portrayed in media?

Plot Hooks

  • The local diocese has clergy members dress as the traditional bringers of gifts and bringers of punishment for the seasonal holiday, travelling from town to town. The custom is all the local children put on a performance with singing and dancing, with participation and a good show resulting in gifts and shirking and crappy performances resulting in less desirable presents. The PCs are charged with organizing and directing the play so the children are rewarded and not punished. How are the PCs chosen for the task? Is there a theme for the play? How many children must they organize? Do the parents get involved?
  • The PCs are meant to dress up as the local Krampus-like figure, offering coins and treats in exchange for confessions of wrongdoing. When a child admits something hinting at another individuals unknown crimes, the PCs must decide if they will simply continue with their role in the parade, or try to see if they can get the criminal to do a little confessing of their own. What do the PCs represent in the holiday? What is the nature of the crime committed? How will they go about rectifying the situation? Who is in the wrong and what will it mean if they get away with it?
  • The tradition of the  evil spirit who  punishes the bad has been watered down over the years, resulting in a silly, mischievous creature no one can really fear. When a group of terrifying individuals claiming to be the original evil spirit and their helpers show up in  the local square, they begin terrorizing the town in the hopes to restore balance to the holiday. The PCs must try to stop these evil-thwarting vigilantes. What form do the evil spirits take? How are they antagonizing the populace? How do the people feel about the reappearance of the entities? Is everyone against them or are some happy they’ve returned? Are they actually evil spirits or something else?

For PCs

  • Do you amend your behaviour around this time of year to avoid consequences?
  • Do you believe in these entities or do you chalk them up as children’s stories?
  • Even if you do not believe, do you still play along if children are involved? Or do you expose these moral entities for what they are?
  • What do you think these entities represent?
  • Do you believe in these individuals the way the majority of the culture does or do you have your own beliefs/traditions?

What say you? Krampus is WAY scarier than the threat of coal, wouldn’t you say?

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